Santa Anita has a problem

ARCADIA -- A drainage problem with the new synthetic track at Santa Anita could jeopardize its thoroughbred racing programs if the area is hit with predicted heavy rainfall in the coming days.

"It's designed to be an all-weather track. At this point, it's anything but," Mike Willman, director of publicity at Santa Anita, said. "If we get the heavy rain that is forecast, there is a very strong possibility we will have to cancel racing at some point."

The new track, installed last summer at a cost of $11 million, was designed to ensure safety for horses and jockeys. But, Willman said, the drainage problem was discovered in September, while racing programs were being held at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.


The United States had a 1-0 lead in its Hopman Cup mixed teams final against Serbia hours before the first match was scheduled to begin today. Jelena Jankovic, hobbled by strained buttock and hamstring muscles for three days, was not able to play her singles match against Serena Williams, giving the U.S. a walkover win and 1-0 lead at the Burswood Dome in Perth. Serbian officials were hoping that by resting Jankovic from women's singles, she would be able to partner with Novak Djokovic in the mixed doubles, the final match of the night. That strategy will only work if Djokovic beats American Mardy Fish in men's singles to make the match even at 1-1.

Jankovic pulled out of both her singles matches the previous two days, and in both cases came back to win the clinching mixed doubles with Djokovic -- against France on Wednesday and Argentina on Thursday. ...

Third-seeded Andy Murray beat Thomas Johansson 7-6 (4), 6-0 to advance to the semifinals of the Qatar Open in Doha. Neither player was able to break the other's serve in the first set. Murray dominated the tiebreaker with strong forehand strokes from the baseline. ... Top-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal brushed aside American qualifier Rajeev Ram 6-4, 6-1 to gain the Chennai Open quarterfinals Thursday in Chennai, India. ... Venus Williams beat China's Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-2 in her first match of the year at the JB Group Classic exhibition tournament, a warmup for the Australian Open. ... Lindsay Davenport reached her third final in four events since her return to the WTA Tour, beating Austrian teenager Tamira Paszek 6-4, 6-3 today at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. Davenport is 17-1 in singles since she returned to the tour after the birth of her first child. She is closing in on a third title in the first four tournaments of her comeback. ... Amelie Mauresmo, top-seeded Nicole Vaidisova and defending champion Dinara Safina were among the losers in the quarterfinals of the Australian women's hardcourts in Gold Coast. Mauresmo -- formerly the world's top-ranked player -- was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by fourth-seeded Patty Schnyder. ... Lleyton Hewitt won 16 of the first 19 points in a 6-2, 6-2 win over Jose Acasuso that put him into the quarterfinals of the Australian men's hardcourt in Adelaide.

Motor Sports

France's government urged the Dakar Rally to not race through Mauritania after the slaying there of four members of a vacationing French family. The race starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, and is to finish in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20 after crossing Morocco and Mauritania.